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Keeping On Top Of Those Quilting Goals

How I’m Tracking My January Progress

It’s 4 days into the new year already! How are your quilting goals going, fallen off the wagon yet?!

SMART goals are my Secret Weapon this year (read about my goals here)- and so far so good. (Trust me, I’ve fallen off the wagon on day 1 before now.) Success comes if you track your progress (allegedly) and here’s how I’m doing it:

I’ve adopted a really simple visual tracker that takes no time at all to fill in. (Secret Weapon number 2!)

Here it is:

Planning and organising goals - January 2017 tracker. © Stephanie Boon, 2017. www.dawnchorusstudio.com

Keeping track of January’s quilting projects, in no particular order. Hmm, not had too much time this week already…

On the left is a list of my ufo’s and up above is the day/date of the month. All I do is fill in the square of the project and corresponding date that I work on it.

Seeing Is Believing

You can see that I’ve worked on Plain Sewing circles every day so far, which makes me a happy bunny. Why? Because one of my quilting goals is to make a circle block every day for the next three months. And I’m on track! (I know it’s only a couple of days but it does motivate me to keep going.) On the other hand I have a dodgy-looking ambition to finish On The Edge by the end of this week.  I need to get my skates on if I’m going sew the binding to meet that goal.

There are other projects on the list that I’ve no intention of working on this month. I could have left them off or put a line through them, but I decided to keep them visible. This way I’ve got a clear idea of what’s in my cupboards… lest I write in any new projects (by hand) along the way!

Complete Your Own Tracker – Download This One!

I’ve saved a version of my tracker for you to download and use if you’d like to join me. The blank sheet is suitable for any (and every!) month of the year. There’s a simple list of dates across the top with a row above where you can write in the days. Above that there’s a space to write the month and a place to make a key if you want. Finally, there’s a blank column on the left for your project list.

It’s A4, so it’s easy to stick into a notebook or onto a pinboard in your sewing space.  I’ve saved it as pdf file, but if you’d prefer it in a different format (Word or Pages) let me know in the comments and I’ll sort it out for you.

Bullet Journals

A complicated tracker isn’t much fun for me, the simpler it is the easier it is to complete it: I don’t want to spend hours faffing about, I’d rather be quilting! But if you’re one of those creative people that’s more motivated by something decorative, or with more details, you’ll find lots of inspiration from the bullet journalists.

They’re a bunch of people dedicated to organising and planning their lives in a ‘bullet journal’. Some of them have a serious addiction (some might call it a fetish) for decorative stationery and colouring in!  Check out Bohoberry for decorative inspiration and free printables.

If you prefer a more straightforward approach you might like to have a look at Ryder Carroll’s website BulletJournal.com. Carroll ‘invented’ the bullet journaling method of organising yourself. He gives really simple, clear instructions for using his “Analog System For The Digital Age” (fancy!) in the most basic way possible. I’ve picked up a few tips that I’ve started using that are transforming my usual scatter-logical note scribbling: indexing is a godsend, but I’m sure librarians came up with the idea first!!!

One Monthly Goal

The One Monthly Goal challenge over at Elm Street Quilts inspires and motivates lots of quilters. It’s a simple idea: you publish your goal/s for the month, link up at the beginning of the month and share your results at the end. Keep at it for 12 months to enter a prize draw at the end of the year, which is open to anyone anywhere in the world.

There’s still time to link up for January’s challenge, you’ve got until the 25th so head over to join in. Have you taken part before? How did you get on? Let us know if it motivated you to finish something in the comments. I’ve not joined before because I’m uncertain whether it’ll motivate me or completely crush me when I realised I’ve missed yet another goal! Maybe I should bite the bullet?

I am feeling pretty motivated to get on with last year’s Plain Sewing quilt top though, regardless of whether there’s a carrot or stick dangling in front of me!

Plain Sewing 2017

Plain Sewing, textile art by Stephanie Boon, 2016 © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Plain Sewing. Work in progress 2016.

In late 2015 I joined in the Quilty365 sew along with Audrey at Quilty Folk. The idea was to make one circle block a day for the next 365 days – enough to make a quilt at the end of 2016. I got carried away – and then got left behind! Life got in the way as it often does, but I managed to keep at it until April/May time I think.

The blocks I made don’t all go together so I’m making more than one quilt.  Plain Sewing (pictured above) has really sustained my interest. It’s pretty small at the moment and I was thinking about making a wall hanging, but ideas change. Over the intervening months I’ve accumulated more fabric, which means I can make it quite a bit bigger.

Plain Sewing, textile art by Stephanie Boon, 2016 © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Using an old linen suit and shirtings for my 2017 blocks. This is from the 2nd of January.

I’ve been given a man’s linen suit in a neutral ‘weetabix’ colour, a blue stripy shirt and a couple of other pieces of dress linens that will make great backgrounds for the blocks. And this is the month I decided to pick it up again: a new start in the new year. I’m planning on one block a day for the next three months to see where that’ll take me.

Plain Sewing, textile art by Stephanie Boon, 2016 © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

This was the first block of 2017.

Sewing a block every day became a kind of mediation last year. I sat quietly for an hour or so, focussing on the hand-stitching and needle turn appliqué, letting everything go. I loved the ritual of it and that’s what I hope to recreate this time too.

Plain Sewing, textile art by Stephanie Boon, 2016 © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Yesterday’s block, 3rd January, looks about as stressed as I was before I started stitching!

I’ve made 3 blocks so far and keep having ideas for another quilt (or three) developed from it. I’ll tell you about the inspiration for Plain Sewing in my next post. In the mean time I’m going to scribble my ideas in my newly indexed notebook and try hard not to invent another project to track just yet!

One Year On

There were so many inventive interpretations of Audrey’s simple idea and a surprising number of quilters made it right through. In her final Quilty365 link-up post for a few months Audrey talks about her year’s journey and progress so far. She’s making a wonderful hand appliquéd centre piece that you should see. It’s the delicious icing on the quilt!  Hop over and take a look.

I’m linking up with Lorna at Sew Fresh Quilts for Let’s Bee Social and I’ll be back here on Sunday for Slow Sunday Stitching. Until then…

Happy stitching all you organised quilters out there – and to you too, even if you’re not!

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnchorusStudio.com



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A Clear Solution

It’s often said that little things please little minds. In my case I’m sad to say it’s 100% true! On Sunday I wrote that I was at a loss to know what to do with my many blunt needles, since the demise of the 35mm film canister. As ever, I put the question to the Slow Sunday Stitchers at the weekend and you came up with lots of suggestions:

  • most popular was the old prescription pill bottle,
  • then there was the sharps bin at the doctor’s surgery
  • or the inventive little plastic breath-mint box.

But the suggestion that really caught my attention was Colleen’s Mason jar solution. Mason jars are the ones with the metal lids and the separate ring screw-top (in the UK these are the original Kilner jar I believe). Colleen suggested you make some holes in the lid (you could use a bradawl) and drop your used needles inside until it was full enough to dispose of by taping up the holes and sending it off with the trash (which would take some considerable time!).

What I Did

Tiny Kilner jar with a homemade label, to store blunt pins and needles. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

On my weekly shopping trip today I popped into a kitchen shop and picked up a mini clip top Kilner jar (above); I’m a sucker for Kilner jars! No more blunt needles hanging around on my lamp base – or anywhere else they might fall. A cute jar needs some cute decoration. Yes it does!  A bit of repurposed ribbon and a white pin from a clothes label, plus a parcel label a friend gave me and Bob’s your uncle – that’s me happy for the rest of the day!  See, little things.

Thanks again to Colleen for the solution and the smiles. How would you decorate yours? Need some ideas? Look at this amazing Pinterest board One Million Ideas for Mason Jars!

I’m linking up with Lorna for this week’s Let’s Bee Social, see you there.

Happy stitching

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnchorusStudio.com


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Fete – A New Improv Triangle Quilt

I’ve wanted to make a quilt with improv triangles for a while and until now I couldn’t find a good enough excuse to make one, because I’ve got so many other works in progress. The excuse I’ve come up with is my sister’s 40th birthday in January 2017. It’s a good excuse, right?!  I mentioned her birthday a few weeks ago and asked for ideas, but nothing really grabbed my attention. Triangles had been percolating for a while though and when I saw this fabulous bunting in Truro recently it was like the proverbial light bulb coming on.

Mosaic image of bunting in Truro with a bright blue sky behind purple and orange tenants. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Bunting in Truro spring 2016

It’s so joyous and festive, just right for a birthday celebration. So the triangle quilt got it’s name before it even got started: ‘Fete’. It’ll be a lap quilt.

'Fete' a new patchwork quilt in progress. Improv triangles in pinks and reds prints on a grey print background. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Improv triangles

I decided to have a look at some improv triangle quilts to see what others have been up to; there are a lot of half square triangles out there aren’t there! Not what I had in mind. I had a look through a couple of my books for more ideas. I love Sujata Shah’s triangle quilt in Cultural Fushion Quilts, but I want a lot more movement in mine, not really just the tips of the triangles missing across fairly straight rows. A corner of one of Sherri Lynn Wood’s improv quilts that I saw in her book The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters was nearer the mark. It’s definitely creating movement that interests me.

Sewing individual triangles together for an improv patchwork quilt. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Sewing individual triangles

I started off by making the bottom row of small triangles, cutting each triangle individually to get different angles. I soon realised that sewing this way might take a while so decided to have a go at layering alternate light and dark squares and cutting out several triangles at once.

Sewing large individual triangles together for an improv patchwork quilt. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Making some large triangles

The trouble with this method is that you get fairly uniform triangles and not much movement. It’s pretty easy to spot these particular triangles in the top row on the left of the block. I decided to finish the row with individually cut blocks to see what happens. Suddenly the movement came back. Maybe I’ll try a mix of the two methods for a bit of time saving – I’ve given myself to the end of May to get the top finished so that I’ve got 6 or 7 months to hand quilt it.

Detail of improv triangles for patchwork quilt. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com


I plan to use as much scrap fabric as I can, it’s so much more eco friendly and I just love trying to make it work. In the detail picture above you can see where I’ve joined two pieces of grey fabric to get a piece large enough to fit. I think I’ll have to buy a fair bit of fabric though to cut some large triangles. Most of the pieces I’ve already got will result in small triangles like the ones in the bottom row and I definitely need more variation. I actually bought a quarter of one of Tula Pink’s Eden fabrics yesterday and nearly died at the till – almost £16 ($23) a metre. WTF?!?! (Excuse me!) I haven’t used it yet, but it’s going to look great for larger triangles.

Improv Triangle Tips

If you’re interested in having a go at improv triangles I’ve got a few tips that might help along the way:

  • If you’re cutting your triangles individually you’ll get a lot of different shaped bias edges that can easily stretch. The best way to overcome this is to sew them together slowly (make sure you don’t pull them through the machine and let the feed dogs do the work).
  • Don’t press your seams as you go along, instead just finger press them. I’m pressing my seams open wherever I can because it’ll be much easier to hand quilt that way.
  • Once you have a row of triangles stitched together spray the reverse side with starch and press (don’t iron!). Flip the row over, starch and press again. Pressing them just the once gives a lot less opportunity for stretching the edges and you’ll find your rows are less distorted and lie flat.
  • Stay stitch each finished row about 1/8 of an inch from the edge – again it’s all about stabilising the seam so that it can’t stretch. (Click on the 1st Improv Triangle image to enlarge it and see the stay stitching in a bit more detail. I used a grey thread.)
  • If you’re going to use large triangles I recommend stay stitching them individually too.

Have you got any tips for triangles you’d add? Let us know!

I’m linking up with Kaja and Ann for this month’s Ad Hoc Improv Quilters (AHIQ) and hope to see lots of inspiring quilts in progress.

Happy sewing until next time.

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnchorusStudio.com


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Make the Most of Your Quilting Time, with Audrey Easter

Graphic: cHow to Make the Most of Your Quilting Time, with Audrey Easter. A conversation with Stephanie Boon, 2016. www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Hello and welcome to my third talk to an inspiring and productive quilter in the series How Long Does It Take To Make A Quilt?  The series explores how some our favourite quilters make the most of their quilting time and how they organise themselves and organise their sewing rooms. We learn how they prioritise what to work on, what other demands they have on their time and, best of all, they share their tips to help us make the most of our own quilting time! So far I’ve spoken to Ann Brooks and Kaja Ziesler, and today I speak to the wonderful Audrey Easter of Quilty Folk!

How Long Does It Take To Make a Quilt – Audrey Spills The Beans!

How to make the most of your quilting time by organising yourself with lists. Stephanie Boon talks to Audrey Easter of Quilty Folk (showing grey appliqué quilt with detail) www.DawnChorusStudio.com

A grey appliqué quilt designed by Audrey

Audrey’s quilts are one of a kind in so many ways. Full of colour and whimsy, they exude an infectious joyfulness and never fail to make you smile. Her personality sparkles through on her blog Quilty Folk and her quilts are a perfect reflection of the woman behind the needle, which is what makes a great quilter, regardless of personal style. Audrey’s quilts are made to her own designs and develop in a very organic way.

How to make the most of your quilting time by organising yourself with lists. Stephanie Boon talks to Audrey Easter of Quilty Folk (showing white appliqué quilt with detail) www.DawnChorusStudio.com

One of Audrey’s recent finishes

She usually finishes about 12 a year and most of them are completely hand quilted, although some include a bit of in-the-ditch machine quilting too – just so that she can squeeze in a few more finishes a year! Not all of her quilts are bed quilts of course, there are usually a number of lap quilts and throws added to the mix. She’s so nimble fingered that she can hand quilt a lap quilt in “well under two months”, using regular hand quilting thread. When she picks up a Perle Cotton and takes a slightly larger stitch length she “can move a quilt through the hoop in less than a month.” (My jaw’s on the floor right about now!) But if that sounds impressive, imagine what she does when there’s some machine quilting included:

“I also occasionally take a quilt and stitch in the ditch on the machine, and then come back for some more intensive hand quilting like say, in the blocks and border.  Not every quilt is going to be easily accepting of this blend of quilting styles though. With a combination of machine and hand quilting, I can almost always produce a finish in about two weeks! That’s why I’m trying to consider it more often. My ‘normal’ hand quilting time is late in the evenings while the house is settling down for the night. If I really single out the hand quilting, stitch at every available moment throughout the day/week then I can finish much faster. The downside to that is that I don’t enjoy my stitching as much. It becomes ‘work’.”

How to make the most of your quilting time by organising yourself with lists. Stephanie Boon talks to Audrey Easter of Quilty Folk (appliqué quilt with detail that includes machine and hand quilting) www.DawnChorusStudio.com

This one includes both machine and hand quilting

Readers of Quilty Folk get a visual feast every time they head over to see what she’s up to – and you never know what that will be! She’s always got more than one quilt on the go at different stages, so there’s a lot of variety for the regular reader. When I asked Audrey if she ever worked on just one quilt at a time she said “never”! She tried it in the past (in a righteous effort to keep down the UFOs), but found it so boring she only finished about one quilt a year. She’s much more productive when she’s working on “several different phases of many, many quilts”. This medley of different stages obviously feeds her creativity and keeps her motivated to produce her 12 quilts a year – plus just as many newly completed quilt tops!

In The Zone

We often hear creative people talking about being ‘in the zone’ or flow’, that special place where time doesn’t seem to exist and you’re completely absorbed in the process. You forget to eat, you don’t hear things going on around you and your hands and mind seem to be completely at one. Once you’ve experienced it you’re driven to get there again, and that’s a great motivation for Audrey, she loves “those times when everything sort of ‘clicks’ into place. It’s such a wonderful feeling to get that rush and know absolutely that I’m making something brilliant.

For this special moment in time, for whatever phase in a quilt project, I’m more than the ordinary.

It can be kind of addictive actually to try and get there again!”

The early stages of a project are some of the most exciting for Audrey: she just loves digging through her stash to find the perfect stack of fabric, holding fabric in her hands and dreaming about the ‘what if’s’. Sometimes when her quilt is partially done and stalls a bit, she relishes going back to her stash to

“dig even deeper – try to find those couple pieces of fabric I overlooked. You know the ones I’m talking about. You put them in the stack and then kick them back out immediately, because they would never in a million years work. I get a real kick out of pushing the boundaries of which prints belong together or how much I can make my colors clash before it’s just ‘too much’ or ‘too far’.”

You can see this in her quilts, the unexpected combinations of colours and prints, the way they just gel effortlessly together. Take a closer look and surprise yourself.

How to make the most of your quilting time by organising. Stephanie Boon talks to Audrey Easter of Quilty Folk (small appliqué quilt with toile de jouy background) www.DawnChorusStudio.com

An unexpected juxtaposition of a toile de jouey background

Quilt Design

Audrey’s idiosyncratic designs are her trademark and she describes her organic approach to the design process as ‘making it up she goes along’! She says that the quilt ‘talks to her’ and tells her what the next best step is. To be able to work like this you need a really good understanding of how different elements work together or play off each other. You need take into account the movement, balance and repetition of your motifs, as well as the usual concerns of tone, prints and colour. And of course, you have to be aware of how you’re going to piece it all together and what techniques you’ll need to use. It’s a process that means you have to accept and revel in the constant shifting of forms and ideas, sometimes big, sometimes small, sometimes compromising this idea for that. It’s a natural way of working for some of us and one of the biggest challenges is accepting that sometimes the result just doesn’t work out! But, when it does you can finish up with the spectacular results Audrey does. And she’s obviously comfortable with the process:

“Most of the time I scribble out some sort of rough idea of what the quilt ‘might’ look like eventually, but that’s a laugh. It’s ever changing. I think that’s part of the excitement for me, never knowing where a quilt will take me! I used to be pretty stubborn about hanging onto the ‘seed’ of my original idea at the very least, but I’m slowly figuring out that one quilt idea might end up making it into three or four quilts. And that’s perfectly okay because the first quilt isn’t always the best!”

How to make the most of your quilting time by organising yourself with lists. Stephanie Boon talks to Audrey Easter of Quilty Folk (image of Audrey's appliqué tree in progress) www.DawnChorusStudio.com

One of Audrey’s appliqué designs in progress

Working in a fluid way can make working with others more difficult, for example the rigid deadlines or boundaries of some sew-alongs can be burdensome and a drain on creativity. There are sew-alongs that Audrey enjoys though, but she’s learnt to be choosy. She says sew-alongs make it easy to get caught up in “everyone else’s ideas and not have the time or energy to focus on our own creative urges”. She also believes that there’s an “inevitable comparison” that happens in sew-alongs “sometimes I love it and other time it just drags me down:

I have crazy high expectations of my own work sometimes and so I’ve had to learn to listen to my instincts a bit better.

Figure out which ones will work ‘for’ me and not ‘against’ me…”

Engaging with others is essential to creative development, so if our opportunities to do that are limited, because of the way we work or perhaps due to geographical limitations, I wondered where Audrey gets her encouragement and feedback. She told me

“My family thinks I’m amazing but they’re so confident about everything I make that sometimes I just have to doubt them. Seriously, no one could possibly be that good! So next up would be the loyal readers on the blog. They stick with me through thick and through thin. Occasionally I get a comment that is incredibly spot on as to what I’m trying to accomplish and it almost makes me want to cry. They listen to me so they ‘get’ me! How special is that?”

The  blogging community is really important to Audrey and I was curious how she balances quilting with her blog and social media; I asked her if she’s strict about the amount of time she spends online. “Up to a point” she replied. Blogging is her main focus and she can only keep up with so much social media, so things like Facebook and Instagram take a back seat and her accounts remain “just for family at the moment”. She does try to keep one day completely ‘computer free’: Sundays are family day, unless the family’s otherwise occupied “then you’ll find me checking back in.”

How to make the most of your quilting time. Stephanie Boon talks to Audrey Easter of Quilty Folk (flying geese quilt, detail) www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Detail of Audrey’s ‘wonky geese’

Being Organised…And Being ‘Listy’!

Lists, lists, lists: if Audrey can make a list for it, Audrey makes a list for it! It’s an essential way of organising her “crazy busy life” as well as her quilting life. And these aren’t just your average lists scribbled on a piece of scrap paper and lost at the bottom of a pile of paper work! (Ahem, I plead guilty!)

They help her to remember the really important stuff:

“We have a large family calendar on the wall in our dining room with all the family events color coded. Before you start thinking I’m obsessive-compulsive, I’ll admit to letting it slide to week two (several times) during the year before it’s updated to the current month. Sometimes life just gets in the way of even the best intentions and thankfully, my daughters will step in and fill out the calendar for me now that they’re older!”

Audrey writes quilt plans all the time, but doesn’t usually stick to them long term.  She sees them more as a ‘suggestion’ or a starting point, a way of keeping those intriguing ‘what-if’ ideas from disappearing into the ether. She writes down notes and ideas every step of the way, “including the math”. She says it’s the only way she can end up with something ‘square’, plus “I really, really hate wasting fabric or losing track.” If you have a good number of quilts on the go you can’t work on them all at once and Audrey’s note taking system helps her to pick up where she left off.

How to make the most of your quilting time by organising yourself with lists. Stephanie Boon talks to Audrey Easter of Quilty Folk (image of Audrey's lists) www.DawnChorusStudio.com

“I’m a list-maker!”

She has lists of every quilt project started, lists for ‘in-progress’ quilts, completed quilt tops, “the five quilt tops that I’d like to see in the hoop next, all my on-going applique projects, quilts I’m dreaming about.”  These lists are ever changing and she revises them every two to three months. “They work very well to keep me on track priority-wise – illuminating over and over the most important projects to me.”  The only rigid time frames Audrey has are when she decides to gift a quilt or is working toward a quilt show finish. She prioritises which quilt she’ll work on depending on what captures her interest at the time, making deals with herself if part of the process becomes tedious,

“Sometimes I won’t let myself work on anything but one certain quilt for the first 15 minutes of my quilting time or until I get to a specific phase of that quilt. Or maybe I won’t let myself start a new quilt project I’m anxious to dive into. That’s a good one.”  There’s always a part of the quilting process we find less fun or exciting than others and Audrey says “it helps to use the carrot and stick approach. Even if I’m the only one enforcing it!”.

An Organised Sewing Space

A dedicated list-maker indicates an organised person (or at least an aspiring one!) and Audrey has some great ways of organising her sewing space that help her make the most of her quilting time. She has a dedicated sewing area that means she doesn’t have to fuss about getting things set up, which can “give a person the only 20 minutes they might have for quilting that day!”. Never a truer word said. “Quilters can be such procrastinators. If the sewing machine isn’t ready with a flick of a switch, we’ll often use it as an excuse to come back later ‘when there’s more time’. NO. The time to take advantage of is when you’re already in the sewing room!”

How to make the most of your quilting time by organising yourself with lists. Stephanie Boon talks to Audrey Easter of Quilty Folk (image of Audrey's workspace showing fabric storage, bookshelves and files) www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Audrey’s nerve centre

If you live in a rural area like Audrey you’ll identify with her need to make sure a supply of notions is always on hand: “These things are important for dedicated or even spontaneous quilting. It’s so time consuming (and sometimes impossible)  to make a run to the store.” This goes for her stash too, which is readily available to dig through at a moment’s notice. Her stash is made up of

“Bits and pieces I love and those random prints that spark the most audacious ideas. It doesn’t have to be enormous, but the stash should contain every color possible with lots of depth from lights to darks – not that I have all that! But it’s a guilt-free work in progress…

“Not being organized at a very base level interrupts the creative flow – so important for productivity!”

Making Time

When you have a family life packed with demands and commitments like Audrey does, you need to ring fence time for quilting. As well as looking after busy teenagers and her large extended family she dedicates time to a lot of “church related things”, and doing the bookwork for her husband’s business. One way to get things done when you can’t get to the quilt room is to make sure you’re ready to use the ‘time in-between’ at a moment’s notice. Which is where good organisation comes in:

“I take any extra time I find and at least do applique prep work. I’m super dedicated about keeping my hand work bag ready to go and there is always, always a quilt in the hoop. Sometimes even two because I get freaked out if it looks like my current quilt is about done and there won’t be time to sandwich and pin another one. Being prepared with hand work means I never lose more than a couple days of quilting in a row. Even slow quilting eventually adds up to something tangible and more importantly, it keeps me sane and it helps me to be a nicer person. Am I strict about it? You betcha:

I need my quilting time like I need to breathe.

It’s just that I try to do it in a way that most people never realize I’m still carving out MY time from the chaos around me. It’s just a sweet, simple hobby to them!”

How to make the most of your quilting time. Stephanie Boon talks to Audrey Easter of Quilty Folk (quilt with circles and stars) www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Audrey’s 2015 stars – in the snow

Audrey’s Tips For Getting More Quilting Done

Quilting is an all consuming passion for Audrey, as it is for many of us, but she takes a considered and really pragmatic approach, which I believe enables her to produce as much as she does. She has so many great, practical ideas that we can all glean something from but it all hangs on this one simple premise:

“The key is to get your mind immersed in quilting on a very regular basis and then good things will happen.”

“People talk about time spent physically ‘doing’, but if the mind is not wholeheartedly on board, then it’s not sustainable. I think that’s part of why I love hand quilting so very much. I’m ‘doing’ (granted, it’s a very slow forward motion!), but all the while, my mind is working a hundred miles an hour on other areas of quilting. Decisions are being made, ideas are being explored, quilts are being designed – all on a subliminal level of course – while I plod along enjoying the stitching in my hoop. It’s a win-win.”

Keep this in mind and Audrey’s tips should take care of themselves:

  • Be in your quilting space often – daily if at all possible. Pass through and look at what’s on the wall.
  • Dig through your stash or bookshelf and dream.
  • Scribble ideas on paper and make lists. Take note of all those nonsensical, random, fleeting ideas – this is your brain talking to you with creative-speek. (You probably can and will interpret later.)
  • If you’re short on time pick a project and sew 15-20 minutes. Iron or trim some blocks. Prep for applique.
  • Incorporate time for slow quilting so as to give your brain plenty of time to ‘percolate’, dream and relax into the process.
  • Don’t shirk the boring stuff or the ‘work’. “I’ve said it before on my blog and I’ll say it again, quilting requires an effort. It’s not all going to be lightning bolts of inspiration and goosebumps of anticipation.”
  • Most importantly, she advises, make time for the things that you’re most curious about and never, ever quit asking ‘what-if’?

“If you’re genuinely connected with what you’re making, then you’ll be more productive than ever, guaranteed.”

Many, many thanks to Audrey for generously sharing her thoughts, freely giving her time and agreeing to be one of three awesome quilters to take part in this series!

What do you think of Audrey’s tips – is there anything you’d add?  I’d love know, and if you have any tips of your own you’d like to share make sure you leave a comment below!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and found lots of ideas to help you make the most of your quilting time. Follow the links below to find out how quilters Ann Brooks and Kaja Ziesler make the most of their time and what tips they have for you too. Join me next week for a roundup of the best tips from from all 3!

How Long Does It Take To Make A Quilt? Other articles in the series:

Related Links

Audrey’s Blog Quilty Folk

Finally, make sure you sign up for my free fortnightly newsletter to receive quilting inspiration, exclusive articles and news from the studio – just add your details to the form below!  Thanks for reading.

Linking up with Lorna for Let’s Bee Social and Kelly for Needle and Thread Thursday.

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnchorusStudio.com

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How Long Does It Take To Make A Quilt? I Asked Kaja Ziesler

Welcome to another chat with a great quilter in the series How Long Does It Take To Make A Quilt, where we find out how 3 quilters make the most of their quilting time. So far I’ve talked to Ann Brooks and today I’m really pleased to have a chat with Kaja and find out a bit about her process.

Graphic: How to make the most of your quilting time with Kaja Ziesler of SewSlowly.com. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com


I’m sure you know Kaja Ziesler from her wonderful blog Sew Slowly. Kaja’s a bit of an anomaly in the quilt world: she’s an improv quilter that hand quilts. When we think of modern quilts, we likely come up with bright graphic designs with lots of ‘negative space’ that are machine quilted, often much of a muchness to me. Kaja’s quilts are different.

Hand-quilted Patchwork Quilt 'Charley Parker' © Kaja Ziesler, 2015

Charley Parker, hand-quilted 2015

She uses bold, modern fabrics in unusual colour palettes, sometimes mixed with older or repurposed fabrics. Kaja always does her own thing and never works from patterns, preferring to improvise as she goes along.  I love watching her organic design process unfold on her blog. Watching Inner City come to life was like watching a city planner at work!  The main fabric is a black and white print of iconic New York buildings, which she pulls together with the solid structure of the red.


Inner City – Kaja shared regular progress on this quilt on her blog

When you design a quilt organically you often make decisions by rearranging things and trying out the unexpected, which is a slower pace of working than using a traditional block design. You already understand the rhythm a traditional block will create, with improvisation you create your own. It’s an exciting way to work, but you can often hit roadblocks that take a while to resolve. It’s worth it though because you can end up with a quilt that tells much more about the personality of the quilter. In a quilt like ‘Denim’ you get a glimpse into the lives of the people that wore the old jeans too!


Kaja’s improv ‘Denim’ is made from old jeans and features subtle hand embroidery


Denim patchwork quilt by Kaja Ziesler 2015

Embroidered detail on Denim

How long it takes to make a quilt is definitely influenced by the processes you use. Ann Brooks completed 20 last year and Kaja finished 3, which isn’t many to a seasoned machine quilter, but hand quilting is about slowing down and taking pleasure in each stitch: it’s a much more intimate process. Each quilt takes about 3 or 4 months to complete “if I’m on a roll”, Kaja says. Another determining factor is obviously how much time you have available. I asked Kaja if she has a busy family life and, yes, I think we’d all agree that “two small children, 4 big ones (they don’t stop needing stuff once they leave home), husband, cat…” would be enough to fill anyone’s day! Add to that the reading, walking, photography and gardening she loves to do and I wonder how any quilts are finished at all.

How Kaja Makes The Most Of Her Quilting Time

Being Organised

How do you carve out time for yourself if you have a very busy life style with lots of family demands? Determination is a word that comes to mind, single mindedness perhaps. Or maybe there’s another way: Kaja declares she’s “very organised”. That’s not something I’m overly familiar with! Perhaps you feel the same? I’d definitely like to take a leaf out of Kaja’s book.

Sweet Nothings 2015 patchwork quilt by Kaja Ziesler of SewSlowly.com

Small Pleasures 2015. If you want to know more about this gorgeous quilt just click the image .

At the beginning of a new year Kaja has plans for her quilts over the coming months “but only a tiny portion will make it”. She doesn’t write a plan for each individual quilt because she doesn’t know what’s going to happen, “so can’t really plan in advance”. Without any time restrictions or ambitious finish dates in mind for your quilts you can explore as many creative avenues as you like along the way, which is what improv quilting is all about. “Sometimes once I’m hand-quilting and past halfway I will aim at a particular [finish] point, but it’s only an ambition mostly.”

Small Pleasures, patchwork quilt © Kaja Ziesler 2015

Small Pleasures – detail

How can you be productive without specific plans, I wondered. How do you prioritise what you’ll work on?  Kaja likes the idea of having one quilt top being pieced and one top being quilted and for a long time she thought

“that was what I did, but then I gave it some thought and realised it wasn’t! Leaving aside rolling projects (like Quilty 365 or RSC stuff) I mostly only piece one thing at a time, and that’s either something I’ve committed to making for someone else [like Small Pleasures, above] or just what I fancy doing.”

The hand-quilting gets done in chronological order: “Once a quilt gets to the top of the pile, then its time has come.”

Patchwork quilt top in progress. © Kaja Ziesler, 2015

One of Kaja’s works in progress from 2015

Kaja (like most of us I suspect) is “obsessive” about putting time aside for quilting. She tries to fit in a couple of hours of hand-quilting every evening and the piecing happens in the gaps around real life:

If I’ve got five minutes I cut something out, or do a couple of quick seams.  If I waited for vast tracts of time I would never make anything.”

That’s something I really identify with. If you can leave your sewing machine up and ready with a few bits of fabric near to hand, it’s much easier to move things forward in ‘the times in between’.  When you have a couple of hours to spare that’s when you can take stock and see how far you’ve come. I asked Kaja what her favourite part of the process is: “what I love is when everything starts to click, when I find the rhythm of a piece, and that could come at any time (though if I’m honest not so often when I’m binding!)”.

Online Time

Kaja’s a regular blogger and posts 3 or 4 new articles a week. It’s a good way of reflecting on your process and seeing your progress over a long period of time, and of course it’s about making friends. But it does take time – and it’s so easy to lose a couple of hours down a rabbit hole, rather doing what you’d planned! I’m keen to learn how to rein myself in, so I asked Kaja if she has any tips.

Kaja keeps to a routine:

“I do my blog-following and replying to comments in the morning with my first cup of tea of the day, then if I’ve managed to do any sewing I post some time in the afternoon, but try to limit myself apart from that.  I love the communication and will prioritise that but if I don’t watch myself I can spend an extra hour mindlessly browsing.”

Only an hour Kaja?! I’ve got a lot to learn.

Organising The Sewing Space

Most of us imagine everyone else has a beautiful sewing space with oodles of natural light and ample storage. The reality is often different; having a room to yourself is a luxury and we tend to make do with whatever corner of a room we can annexe before anyone else notices. Kaja’s no different. Her sewing machine’s set up in one place, the iron’s up a flight of stairs, the computer somewhere else again, and her stash lives in a garage a fifteen minute drive away. Running around to find what she needs must keep her really fit! She says she tries to have project boxes so that anything she needs immediately is easy to get hold of, “but in reality I often have to wait till I can get to my fabrics.” I’m sure this is where Kaja’s good organisational skills come into their own: someone as disorganised as I am would have a meltdown every 5 minutes trying to remember where everything is!

Hand quilting in progress, © Kaja Ziesler 2016

Hand quilting in progress

Motivation and Inspiration

In the US just about everyone seems to have access to quilt guilds or retreats, workshops and exhibitions. Opportunities like this are pretty scarce in the UK so the blogging community can be crucial for inspiration and friendly support. And that’s where Kaja’s found a home. When I asked her what motivates her it’s clear she’s very intrinsically motivated:

“This is me. The person who makes quilts is who I am when I am most myself and I could argue that making space for that helps me to be better in other parts of life (and this may well be true) but there is also a fundamentally selfish need to express myself.  (I don’t think selfish is necessarily a bad thing in this context).”

I’ve never really understood why we feel it’s selfish to express ourselves this way, but it does seem to be a cultural norm. We’re human and expression and communication is what we’re all about, but not everyone can or wants to do it with words. Some of us are far better with a needle and thread, and some of us, like Kaja, are pretty superb.

Kaja’s Tips

She has just one…

“Just get on with it”!

As Kaja says above, if you have a busy life, you have to take 5 minutes whenever you get it. Putting things off because you don’t have hours of uninterrupted quilting time will just result in hours of frustration and disappointment! Good advice to end on, don’t you think?


I hope you’ve enjoyed this chat with Kaja and picked up a few useful tips. Don’t forget that Ann from Fret Not Yourself shared how she makes the most of her quilting time last week and next week I’ll be speaking to Audrey from Quilty Folk – exciting times! You can keep up to date with the series here too.

Linking up with Lorna at Sew Fresh Quilts for this week’s Let’s Bee Social.

More Inspiration For You!

If you’d like to hear about more inspiring things sign up for my free newsletter! It drops into your inbox every other Friday and is full of wonderful things I find around the web, as well as an exclusive article you won’t find on the blog. Just complete the form below (you can easily unsubscribe at any time). If you have a minute, let me know where else I can find you in the poll on the left, I’d love to meet you there – thanks for your help!

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnchorusStudio.com

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Ann Brooks Tells Us How Long It Takes To Make A Quilt

Graphic: How to make the most of your quilting time with Ann Brooks. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Ann, An Expert Quilter, Shares Her Secrets For Making The Most Of Your Quilting Time

Ann Brooks, quilter and blogger at Fret Not Yourself is an inspiration to me and so many others. She lives and quilts in both California and Texas, but her Texas roots are strong (I can’t help imagining a wonderful accent!) and occasionally show up in her quilts. You’d be hard pressed not to recognise Ann’s distinctive quilts: there’s often  50 – 200 different prints in each one and the colours she chooses are very expressive. It’s easy to lose yourself in them wondering how she can make a quilt with such coherent designs using so many unique prints. The answer is a highly sophisticated sense of colour and value and undoubtedly her many years of experience. There’s another noticeable fact about Ann’s quilts: there’s a goodly amount of them!  Ann, it seems, is a very productive quilter.

Chinese Coins improv string quilt © Ann Brooks, 2015

Chinese Coins improv string quilt © Ann Brooks, 2015

When I asked Ann how long it takes to make a quilt, it wasn’t a surprise that 2015 was an exceptional year, but I was staggered to discover she’d completed a “record high” of 20 quilts. The year before was 5 – 10, but among them was her fantastic quilt Propellors and Planes (below), which she describes as one of her all time favourites (unsurprisingly!). The quilt blocks were begun in February 2014 and the quilt was finished and hung in a guild exhibition a year later.  (Ann posted an index to her progress on the Propellors and Planes quilt so you can see how it developed.)

'Propellors and Planes' quilt by Ann Brooks, 2015

Ann’s Propellors and Planes, begun in 2014 and finished in February 2015

‘Lobster Boat’ is another impressive original design that Ann made for her new (and first) grandson, which she began and finished in 2015. Some of the first things that strike you are the strong design (note the Texas flag!), thoughtful use of fabrics to suggest movement and distance and the skilful piecing that comes from years of dedication to quilt making. The quirky fabrics just make you smile – where on earth did she come across lobster fabric?! Just perfect. (Read more about it over at Fret Not Yourself:  Lobster Boat Quilt For A Special Person.)

'Lobster Boat', pictorial art quilt, © Ann Brooks, 2015

‘Lobster Boat’, © Ann Brooks, 2015

Ann usually drafts her own versions of the quilts she wants to make (I believe she’s very good at quilt maths!), but more recently she’s joined some online quilt alongs (like Quilty365) and bought two patterns to make a quilt from.  Even so, designing and making her own original work is still her preference. In 2015 she experimented a lot with improv quilting and her Tiger Stripes quilt (a graduation gift for her son) was inspired by Sujata Shah’s book Cultural Fusion Quilts. The blue and gold colours represent her son’s university colours and Ann has quilted some college chants in the zig zags to personalise it.

'Tiger Stripes', an improv rail fence quilt by © Ann Brooks, 2015

‘Tiger Stripes’, © Ann Brooks, 2015

There’s so much rhythm and excitement in this quilt it makes you want to get up and dance!

Deadlines Do It For Ann!

These two quilts alone would be a good tally of finishes for a year for some of us, but Ann completed 18 more (I’m gasping for breath here!).  I asked her what motivates her to get them done and she says that her goal is to get her quilts into use. Deadlines help her to make a quilt for special occasions, like a gift for a new grandchild, or exhibition opportunities. The flip side is that Ann says she’ll “expand any project to the time available” (who’s not guilty of that!). Her oldest UFO, which is being densely hand quilted, has been 26 years under the needle and is “still 3/4 finished”. She says it’s hard to finish when she doesn’t work on it at all, but she’s not ready to give it away!

These days Ann prefers to make a quilt by machine and it’s worth noting that she does all her quilting on a domestic machine (rather than send them out to a long-armer) and can make a quilt like a small baby or lap quilt in a couple of days, while large quilts might take a month:

“Once I start quilting that’s all I do until it’s finished.”
Her finished tops might go into a pile waiting to be quilted, which she describes as a bad habit. Years ago Ann knew Libby Lehman and wants to emulate “one of her many admirable traits” to make a quilt one at a time, all the way through. It’s a goal she’s still working towards: “Like too much fabric, too many UFOs stifle you”. That’s a very powerful statement I think: too many UFOs mean too much choice of what to work on and too much choice can lead to a lot of prevarication, making it difficult to prioritise. Sometimes, rather than prioritise, it can be easier to start a new project, which just perpetuates the vicious circle.

Book Study Groups

Some of us like to spend hours alone when we’re quilting and some of us love to make a quilt with others. Then there’s the happy medium where we get to enjoy the best of both worlds, and I think Ann’s found it. She’s been Programs for various Guilds on 5 occasions now (each one’s a two year stint and at the moment she’s in her second year SCVQA) and also gets a lot of encouragement and inspiration from book study groups, where a small group of friends meet and discuss the chapters of a quilt book in sequence, then go home to try it out ready to come back next time to share experiences.

Improv curve quilt © Ann Brooks, 2015 www.fretnotyourself.blogspot.com

Ann’s dazzling ‘Improv Curve Quilt’, 2015, inspired by a score in the book The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters

At the moment her group’s working through Sherri Lynn Wood’s book The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters. Belonging to a group like this is a good way to learn new techniques and gain insight from the author and other group members. Maybe it doesn’t directly influence the how long it takes to make a quilt, but over time it’ll give you the confidence to pick the right technique for the job, which will definitely mean less unpicking in the future!  It goes without saying that inspiration and creativity are sparked by discussion with others and there are some great posts on Ann’s blog Fret Not Yourself where you can follow along and share in her discoveries.

On Being Organised


If you’re one of those super organised quilters that writes a ‘quilt plan’, a step by step guide to making each quilt, you’ll be surprised to learn that someone as organised as Ann doesn’t use them. A list of ‘in progress’ quilt tops, ideas and events that need a quilt is a good enough reminder of what to work on next and keep on track, especially for special events like births and quilt shows. Spending life writing lists and publishing plans is definitely not a priority and any she does make are for personal use – and kept strictly off line!


Ann’s fabric stash occupies nothing more than a few clear tubs stacked on the floor, which might seem a little sparse to an over zealous fabric hoarder (you know who you are!). But, Ann has a fundamental belief that “over abundance stifles creativity more than any other aspect”, and I agree.  I love her guiding principle of “make do with what’s on hand” (it costs a whole lot less too). If you deliberately limit your stash, how long it takes to make a quilt could be a lot less: you’ll spend far less time organising it and more time actually quilting! Ann says that her small fabric stash sparks ideas and gets her brain going, and that you can apply the same principle to a large UFO pile: “sort them into ‘finish’ and ‘giveaway’ piles. Move them out”. It’s not really minimalist, but it certainly makes your quilting space a distraction free zone!

Ann Brooks fabric stash for quilting © Ann Brooks, 2015

Ann’s entire fabric stash fills just a couple of boxes


Time for quilting is something that’s close to all our hearts. Many of us feel that if we don’t make that time, we’re somehow not complete; it’s what makes us tick and function ‘normally’ in other aspects of our lives! Ultimately the time we have available for quilting determines how long it takes to make a quilt and how many we might finish in a year. So what about Ann? Ann recognises that she’s at a very fortunate time in her life with grown children, a new grandchild far away, she’s healthy and retired: Ann says she gets to do what she wants! But, she has a profound awareness that she’s “spending her life” and “no one lives forever”, so she asks herself “what do you want to do now; what legacy do you want to leave?”. It’s a way of crystallising the most important things in life and ensuring that if quilting is important, quilting gets done.


I asked Ann how she balances her quilting with her blogging and social media activities, a juggling act most of us find difficult to get right. Is she strict about the time she spends online? “Not strict enough!”, she says. She enjoys talking with people, so her replies are usually online (unless they’re personal in nature) in the hope that others will join in, or at least find something interesting. Her blog Fret Not Yourself “puts all the information in one place”, which she says helps productivity.



Ann’s Tips

Ann shows us that how long it takes to make a quilt depends on lots of factors, from prioritising and defining what it is you want to achieve to organising yourself accordingly. What’s very clear is that it has absolutely nothing to do with how fast you are on a sewing machine!

Finally, I asked Ann what tips she’d give to a quilter that wants to get more done. She says you should ask yourself what your goal is: “if you want to make more you should probably choose easier designs, and if you want to make more complicated designs you should expect to finish fewer of them. Ask yourself  ‘Are you happy?’ If so, keep on. If not, what can you tweak to become happier?”.  Ann quotes St Francis: allegedly when someone asked what he’d do if he knew the world would end tomorrow he replied “finish hoeing this row”.  Ann says

“Choose with deliberation.
It may not be quilting,
but you’ll be happy you’re doing what matters most.”


I’d like to thank Ann for agreeing to share how long it takes to make a quilt with us, especially for the time she took away from quilting to do it! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and found lots to inspire you. Ann’s certainly helped me understand how loving what you do and focussing on what you want to achieve, really honing that until it’s crystal clear, is the way to make sure you achieve your goals.

Don’t forget to head over to Fret Not Yourself to follow Ann (if you don’t already) and to come back next Monday when I chat to Kaja of Sew Slowly to find out how long it takes her to make a quilt.

You might also like these posts

How Long Does It Take To Make A Quilt – links to the whole series

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Linking up with Lorna at Sew Fresh Quilts for Let’s Bee Social.


Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnchorusStudio.com

How Long Does it Take to Make a Quilt?

How Long Does It Take To Make A Quilt (series)? Graphic: How to make the most of your quilting time: great tips from great quilters. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.dawnchorusstudio.com

How Long Does It Take To Make A Quilt?

It Depends On How You Make the Most of Your Quilting Time!

‘How long does it take to make a quilt?’ is a question most of us are asked at some point. It’s what every new quilter and non-quilter wants to know. And the next thing you’re likely to hear is “you must have the patience of a saint!”. Um no!  But really, asking how long it takes to make a quilt is like asking how long is a piece of the proverbial string. And we all know the answer to that one. Mostly it takes a long time to make a quilt: anything from a week or two (if you’re quick!), a month or two, to a decade or two. Most of us are making more than one quilt at any given time, so unless we take careful notes (who does that?) we actually have no accurate idea.  And yet…

And yet, it hasn’t escaped my notice that some of my favourite quilters make so many great quilts. Come the year’s end, when it’s customary to review the previous 12 months’ endeavours, these talented people appear to have ticked off a list of at least 100 quilt finishes. Each. Ok, I concede, grudgingly, that that might be a slight exaggeration, but I bet you know what I mean. These are the kind of quilters that leave you standing in their wake, with your jaw dropping to the floor wondering what it is they do that you so obviously don’t…

So exactly how long does it take to make a quilt?  And more importantly how can you become more productive yourself, will it take superhuman powers?  I decided to find out:

I asked three of my favourite quilters how they keep their needles so busy!

Hand made quilt 'Charley Harper' © Kaja Ziesler 2015, www.sewslowly.com (Illustrated in article 'How long does it take to make a quilt?' )

Kaja Zieler’s  ‘Charley Parker’ hand quilted lap quilt


I wanted to know if they make their quilts to a plan, if they’re super organised, or if they have any other life! I wanted to know what motivates them and what stops them getting distracted. In fact, I had a whole heap of questions about how long it takes to make a quilt and who better to learn from than these illustrious quilters:

Audrey from Quilty Folk, Ann from Fret Not Yourself and Kaja from Sew Slowly

Handmade quilt 'Scrap Basket' © Audrey Easter, 2015

‘Scrap Basket’ (detail). Audrey Easter’s hand quilted entry into the Bloggers Quilt Festival, 2015

Audrey, Ann and Kaja all make wonderful quilts using very different methods. Ann quilts by machine, Audrey is the queen of hand appliqué and quilts by hand (sometimes with a wee bit of machine quilting) and Kaja quilts solely by hand.

In 2015 they all finished a different number of quilts: Ann 20; Audrey 12 and Kaja 3.

Each quilter makes a range of different size quilts and generally has several tops underway too – and of course they all have different demands on their time. But it’s not the quantity of quilts they make that’s important. What’s interesting is that they all make such individual quilts, many of them complicated designs and each in their own distinctive style. This kind of creativity takes time to nurture, yet they come up with fantastic quilt after fantastic quilt time after time – let’s find out how they do it!

Improv curve quilt © Ann Brooks, 2015 www.fretnotyourself.blogspot.com

Ann Brook’s dazzling ‘Improv Curve Quilt’

How Long Does It Take To Make A Quilt?

I realised that asking the simple question ‘how long does it take to make a quilt?’ wouldn’t really help us understand how Ann, Kaja and Audrey seem to make so many inspirational quilts. It’s more helpful to know:

  • how they nurture their creativity and
  • how they organise themselves so that creativity can flow more easily.

Read the articles below to find out Ann, Kaja and Audrey’s secrets to success!

How Long Does It Take To Make A Quilt? (series) Graphic: How to make the most of your quilting time with Ann Brooks. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

How Long Does It Take To Make A Quilt? (series) Graphic: How to make the most of your quilting time with Kaja Ziesler of SewSlowly.com. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

How Long Does It Take To Make A Quilt? (series) Graphic: How to Make the Most of Your Quilting Time, with Audrey Easter. A conversation with Stephanie Boon, 2016. www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Ann, Kaja and Audrey have been really generous and shared what makes them tick, what demands they have on their time and how they make the most of the time they have for quilting. We’ll also discover:

My thanks go to all three quilters for taking time out of their day to share their experiences and tips with us, it was such a pleasure! Enjoy reading the articles, pick up a tip or two and join in the conversations with Ann, Kaja and Audrey.

I’d love to know what hinders your quilting time too and what you do to overcome it. Leave a comment and let’s help each other out!

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnchorusStudio.com




Seasonal Colour: Winter

Graphic: How to design a great colour scheme without colour theory! Stephanie Boon 2015, www.DawnChorusStudio.com (original colour wheel graphic by Sakurambo via Wikimedia, altered by Stephanie Boon, 2015)

Let Nature Inspire You

Traditional winter colour schemes for quilts probably include red and green at Christmastime, reminiscent of the laden holly tree, or frosty whites that remind us of cold snowy climes. These are themes that most of us have used at one time or another, but what colours does winter really hold?

Winter colour - blue skies over a snowy derelict building with bare trees in the foreground. Fabric colour palette below. © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

A palette inspired by a crisp winter day, with a bright blue sky fading to pink and the soft ochres of a derelict barn and bare winter trees.

Draw inspiration from the world around you and be inspired to create winter colour palettes that stand out from the crowd. Let rich rugged cliffs, or dusky pink and purple sunsets be your guide. Look to seasonal flora and fauna for inspiration and you’ll create more colourful palettes than you ever expected at this time of year!

First hand inspiration is key. We talked about this approach in the article on Autumn colour, but let’s refresh our memory:

Why is First Hand Inspiration so Important?

Winter colour - two pastel sketches of a sycamore tree . © Stephanie Boon, 2013 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Sketches of a winter sycamore tree could inspire a palette of soft greys, greens and golds.

Getting outside can be a colourful, magical discovery and going for a walk is the only way to know what’s really there. Other people’s photographs can be beautiful and seductive, but remember they capture what they’re interested in and are refined and edited to reflect that. The best thing to do with them (to begin with) is to use them as inspiration to go and explore for yourself! Take your own photographs, make sketches or take notes and look closely for the unexpected.

What Does Winter Mean to You?

Think about the winter climate where you live. Is it grey and wet, or cold, snowy and stark?  What do you love most at this time of year? The warmth and cosiness of a roaring fire perhaps, or a walk through the woods in your wellies? Do you love walking in the mountains and hearing the crunch of fresh snow under your boots, or spotting a special bird that visits your shores over winter?  Your answers will guide you to find the places that inspire you most.

I really love crisp, clear days when the sky is a bright blue but fades to a soft pink. Atmospheric sunsets behind silhouetted trees are my favourite and probably inspire me most at this time of year.

Winter colour - dusky sunset in blues, pinks and golds with silhouetted trees. Fabric colour palette below. © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

A winter sunset can provide inspiration for a colour palette tinged with pinks and golds.

Imagine wrapping yourself up in memories of a dusky country walk or a quilt that reminds you of the soft colours of a nearby winter beach…

Winter colour - field of brassica under a cover of snow, with hills and a viaduct in the background. Shown alongside fabric colour palette © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Winter greens – a palette inspired by a field of dying cauliflowers under a covering of snow.

Finding Inspiration

Now’s the time to go out and explore!

Winter colour - inspiration from the sea -rocks , sand and waves. With fabric colour palette below. © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Soft sands, deep greys and bright blues inspired by cliff walks and winter beach combing

Take a notebook, a camera, a sketchbook, binoculars – anything you might need to record the details.  Look carefully at the colours around you and ask yourself questions. What plants are there, what colours catch your eye? Exactly what colours are the wet stone walls, the cliffs, the pebbles on the beach? Is there anything you can collect to take home to remind you?

Winter colour - grass growing through broken ice. © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

If looking at an entire landscape feels overwhelming don’t forget to look at the details.

If winter means the warmth of real fires to you but you don’t have one at home try and find somewhere else to experience it. Perhaps they have one at the local pub, or a friend’s home. Take notes of the colours of the flames, the wood beside the fire, the coal and the copper skuttle…

Finding Inspiration Out of Season

Imagine you want to make a quilt for the winter months, something with a seasonal feel. But it’s high summer, so what are you going to do? This is where sketchbooks come in really handy. Dedicate one for the colours of each season and as you go through the year fill it with your first hand notes, thoughts and photos. You could collect things too, like feathers or leaves. Remember to make a note of the month and place, so that you can go back again another year if you want to.

Mood Boards

I love to have my inspiration around me where I can see it. It’s the best way to absorb the colour mood and it’s easy to swap things around to see different effects. I add fabric samples, objects, inspiring text… and images from magazines or postcards! As long I have my first hand inspiration up there too, I feel confident I’ll capture the mood I’m after.


Just go for a walk! Really enjoy the colours of the surroundings: take photos, write notes, collect things that remind you of it. Create a mood board with your source material and when you’re happy it captures the right mood, try and identify the three main colours that sum it up. Now find some fabric in your stash or scrap bin to match up to them.  To make a larger palette you can add in lighter and darker variations of the three colours and some neutrals too. Follow these links for a refresher on value, proportion, neutrals and colour matching.

Play about with your palette by swapping colours in and out and take photos of any changes you make. Keep your photos with your notes.

Please Share With Us!

A great way to keep notes is in a sketchbook or scrapbook and Pinterest is the digital equivalent.  Pin your favourite palettes inspired by your walks, photos and even pictures of your notes. That way you’ll have everything together in the perfect place to share! Leave a link below and we’ll come and visit.

If you have any questions, tips or advice feel free to start a discussion in the comments – hopefully we can inspire each other and help each other along.


Other Articles in the Series

Graphic: How to design a great colour scheme without colour theory! Stephanie Boon 2015, www.DawnChorusStudio.com (original colour wheel graphic by Sakurambo via Wikimedia, altered by Stephanie Boon, 2015)

Links to all the weekly posts are listed on the Colour index page.

Inspiration for your Winter Colour Scheme

  • Snow – Pinterest board by luciacamilla
  • Frost – Pinterest board by Marian VanC
  • Winter Animals – Pinterest board by Cathy Kent

Check out my favourite link parties here


Favourite Link Parties graphic © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

If you’ve enjoyed this article on creating a seasonal colour scheme I’d love it if you’d share it with your friends via the links below and hope  you’ll join me again next time for designing a seasonal colour scheme for spring.

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There is Nothing Like a Quilt Plan, Stan!

How to Motivate Yourself to Finish Your Quilt

Stan has a quilt plan? No, I don’t know who Stan is either, but I do know that having a quilt plan is keeping me on track to finish this quilt by Christmas!

'Summer Blues' (Bed quilt in progress) ©Stephanie Boon 2014 www.dawnchorusstudio.com

Summer Blues. Basted but not quilted

I wrote my quilt plan just a few weeks ago and I’ve already made progress that I can actually see! Things are moving on with Summer Blues at last.

Summer Blues patchwork quilt in progress - being hand quilted. © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Today in the low morning light

I’ve never written a quilt plan to plan my time before, but if I was ever going to finish this ‘7-years-in-the-making-so-far quilt’ I had to do something.  It’s not the best quilt I’ve ever made (don’t look too closely at the craftsmanship), but it’s still a pretty quilt that holds a lot of good memories. It seemed a shame to leave it festering for another 7 years. The trouble is that hand quilting takes a long time and I’ve moved on and want to get on with other things.  Maybe you know that feeling too?

I thought my best hope of motivating myself was to actually write a quilt plan for my time.  But how do you do that if you have no idea how long it’s going to take?

Writing a Quilt Plan

I decided I had to time myself.  I’d been procrastinating for years (literally!) about how I wanted to quilt this piece, but as time’s gone on I’ve eventually reached the ‘get ‘er done’ stage. This meant that the quilting would have to be simple and straight forward. I decided on stitching in the ditch around all the sashing (which I’d begun a few months earlier) and then outline quilting the inside of each square in the 9 patch blocks.

I timed how long it took to quilt one line of sashing and then one 9 patch block. With full concentration each 9 patch block took an hour.  When I had a film or something on in the background one block took an hour and a half! A quilt plan has to be realistic of course, and that boiled down to how many hours I was willing to devote to it each week.  I reckoned on 10 hours. Quilting 10 9 patch blocks a week seemed do-able.

Hand quilting a nine patch block. © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Time how long it takes to finish one section

Then I  worked out the other things I had to do to finish the quilt and wrote them down in order, estimating what I could do in 10 hours each week. It added up to 12 weeks sewing. I counted off 12 weeks on a calendar and realised it meant I could just about finish it by Christmas: result! Here was my motivation in black and white.

Managing Your Quilt Plan

The good thing about a quilt plan is that you can turn it into a list, and I love a list – as long as it stays manageable. That means being realistic about it, as I already mentioned – and I’m not always so good at that bit! So I wrote the list on one condition: that I accept it’s not written in stone and might change (Christmas is coming after all).

How I made a quilt plan: work out how long it'll take you to finish your quilt and get motivated! © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Keeping Track

There’s no point in having a time plan if you don’t keep track of your progress and who doesn’t enjoy crossing something off?

What’s your favourite way to write a list?

Old school pen and paper?  A special notebook? Word or Pages? A planner like this one from Late Night Quilter? I’m going to let you into a secret: I’ve only recently discovered list-making apps – and I’ve fallen in love!

There is an App for That!

I’ve got two apps that I use all the time now: Wunderlist and Evernote. I wrote the list above in Wunderlist. It’s a really straight-forward app that lets you organise your lists in categories. You can add sub-tasks and notes to any list as well.  The items on my Summer Blues quilt plan (above) are actually sub-tasks on a list called ‘Summer Blues’. This is great because it means everything I need to do to complete the quilt is in one place. I can cross off each task as I finish it, then cross off the list itself when I’ve done them all. I can add a date to finish each list and reminders too if I want. But the best thing about Wunderlist isn’t just the crossing off of a task, it’s the totally satisfying sound it makes when I do! And there’s the added bonus that I can have the app on my phone and add to a list whenever and wherever I have a lightbulb moment!

If you’ve got lots of projects on the go Evernote’s really great for that, especially if you want to save stuff from the internet all in one place. As well as making lists and notes, you can clip and bookmark stuff like articles, photos and videos – and you can share them with other people too.

Both apps are free, but of course there are upgrades that you can pay for too. Needless to say, I use the free versions and highly recommend them both. Perhaps I should also add that I’m not receiving any compensation for loving these apps – it’s just the thrill of seeing a plan come together that’s got me so excited!

What motivates you to get a quilt finished? And how do you do it? Share your experiences with us in the comments and maybe you can help someone to finish their quilt too!

 My Favourite Link Parties

This week I’m linking up with Lorna at Sew Fresh Quilts for Let’s Bee Social,  Lee at Freshly Pieced for Work In Progress Wednesday and Stephanie at Late Night Quilter for Tips and Tutorials Tuesdays. I’m looking forward to catching up with you!

For more link parties click the picture below!

Favourite Link Parties graphic © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

Happy planning!

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